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Ericsson predictably encourages operators to start spending ASAP – MWC 2018

Ericsson MWC

A simple message from Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm as the Swedes kick-off this year’s mobile extravaganza; if you are slow, you won’t make money.

As with many of the speeches and announcements at MWC there were few surprises here. Last week’s unveiling of the IoT Accelerator Marketplace told us all we really needed to know about Ericsson’s grand plan, but Ekholm has doubled down on IoT, while also offering a gently nudge to some operators; don’t get caught napping.

“We talk to customers about using 4G as the foundation for 5G,” said Ekholm.

Again, this is nothing new, but guiding nervous operators down the right path is a tricky task. The tides have been shifting somewhat over the last couple of months, as it seems operators are taking a much more cautious approach. No longer do you have the grand ambitions of deploying 5G as quickly as possible, operators are being more measured. Evidence of this shirking was seen at Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum in November with Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh warning about rushing into 5G.

But caution is for the weak and meek according to Ekholm. Statistics were paraded on the big screen demonstrating the advantages of being an early adopter. Those who were first to market in the 4G world hoovered up subscriptions, growing revenues 10% year-on-year. 70% of those who were considered early adopters either maintained their improved position in the market share race or improved it. The rest were playing catch up and suffered because of it.

Few companies need an adrenaline shot as much as Ericsson do and this perhaps came across in the welcome speech. “We don’t know which usecase will be the most important use case for 5G, but we know from experience being early has value,” said Ekholm. The catalyst for a change in fortunes is of course 5G in the long-run, and perhaps IoT for the immediate future, but we got the impression from the speech Ekholm needs this catalyst to kick in sooner rather than later.

Nokia has also decided to put an IoT flavour on this year’s MWC, but instead of the Finnish focus of smart cities Ericsson will be shifting the focus onto the industrial internet and smart factories. Only time will tell as to which will gain traction first, but China’s focus on smart factories and intelligent manufacturing processes will certainly offer a solid foundation for the push. The monstrous and flourishing Chinese economy is certainly an excellent place for Ericsson to focus, but there is the small task of taking on Huawei in its own backyard. The team has recently signed a MOU with China Mobile to develop an IoT innovation centre which will certainly help, but Ericsson will have to be its charming best to succeed in this market.

In short Ericsson laid out a message which was pretty simple to follow. IoT is going to be our thing and operators shouldn’t wait to spend on 5G. Whether anyone is listening remains to be seen.

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